Appreciating the politics of the pandemic
Last month the US House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Biden administration to declassify any intelligence pertaining to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The target of the bill is quite obvious, with American politicians having been relentless in the pursuit to weaponize a conspiracy against China that the pandemic, which caused immense global disruption for three full years, was the product of a laboratory leak.
This "conclusion" has quickly become a form of political correctness in the United States, which despite being frequently rejected by scientific consensus has been weaponized with the goal of advancing US foreign policy objectives against China by successive presidential administrations and tarnishing its international image.
Arguably, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most politically weaponized disease outbreak in history. Every single dynamic of the pandemic, from start to finish, has been used to attack China in some way. From its origins to vaccines, to case numbers, every single development in this long and tenuous saga was used to paint a narrative that China was inherently dishonest, and to score political points against its system at large. Even though for the world at large the pandemic is "over" and everyone has moved on, this political stigmatization has persisted in the United States and has continued to be gaslit by the mainstream media.
In doing so, the US government continues to make a mockery out of scientific understandings and consensus. From day one, it has always been highlighted by experts that the virus is "zoonotic" in origin, that is emerged from animals and was transmitted to humans. The COVID-19, after all, is known as a "coronavirus" and was associated primarily with animals such as bats and pangolins, with scientists having found similar samples amongst populations of bats living in Southeast Asian countries such as Laos.
Likewise, it is the understanding of experts that this "transition" from animal to human took place at the Hua'nan Seafood Market in central China's Wuhan, which is pinpointed as the scientific point of origin of the pandemic. Similarly, samples of the virus were also found in waste water in locations throughout the world, such as in Barcelona, Spain, showing how it is not pinpointed to any one specific country or location, and is of course a natural development.
However, the United States has continued to reject these findings and push a conspiracy, sincerely believing that there was a coverup of sorts pertaining to its origins. This has also become a "tit-for-tat" line of attack in partisan politics, with some Republicans having sought to use the lab leak conspiracy to insinuate Dr Anthony Fauci, who was then director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) as being culpable in COVID due to widespread disdain for him due to his supervision over US pandemic control policies in 2020.
This taps into the ideological element of the pandemic, not only was China blamed, but the American emphasis on individualism and freedom also led to public resistance against necessary pandemic control measures, including the wearing of masks and vaccines.
The natural American response toward government policies they disapprove of, especially when they are deemed to undercut the value of "Classical Liberty" is to insinuate conspiracy theories. Now while the Trump administration was in office, the mainstream media rightfully dismissed the laboratory leak theory for what it was, deeming it to have no credibility whatsoever, when the Biden administration embraced it the mainstream media decided to accept it as legitimate, even though scientific understandings have not changed. The political modus operandi of the Biden administration has been to "bandwagon" and embrace any anti-China sentiment that gains momentum if there is a risk it can be used against them politically.
In doing so, the White House calculated that by venting the blame on Beijing, it could undercut resentment being channelled against it by Republicans. In other words, the pandemic has become a political football in the United States which deliberately and overtly undercuts science.
This adds to the theory that China as a whole has become a point of "political deflection" from US partisan struggles, with a similar process happening right now happening with TikTok. This only shows how mass hysteria, paranoia and opportunism dictate the flow of American politics, which is "post-truth" in nature.
(The author, a postgraduate student of Chinese studies at Oxford University, is an English analyst on international relations. The views are his own.)